Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, December 10

RACE 3: CARTWHEEL (#2)

My Roxy Girl has regained solid form since the claim by Juan Vazquez late in the Saratoga meet. She returned with a dominant victory at Belmont two back before settling for third at a slightly tougher claiming level last time. Now she’s moving back into New York-bred company while dropping slightly for the $25k tag. She’s always dangerous when she races this cheaply, and she doesn’t figure to have any problem handling the stretch-out to 7 furlongs. I think she’s the one to beat, as I prefer her to the other likely short price, Saratoga Beauty. If the version of Saratoga Beauty that showed up last time for Rob Atras reappears under the care of Tom Morley, the rest of this group could be in trouble. I’m just skeptical that will happen. That was during a time when Atras’s horses were all improving, and this filly’s prior form is mediocre. Furthermore, Tom Morley is just 3 for 34 (9%, $0.56 ROI) first off the claim in dirt sprints over the past 5 years. I’m more interested in some bigger prices drawn inside. Diva Banker has the potential to rebound as she returns to New York after a puzzling poor effort in Kentucky last time. Prairie Fire also has the races to beat this field if she could get back on track off the reclaim by Linda Rice. Yet my top pick is Cartwheel. She drops out of a pair of tries at the OC 45k/N2X level, which may just be a little too tough for her at this stage of her career. She was claimed for just $20k three back, so it makes sense that she’s dropping back in for a similar tag here. It’s also worth noting that she’s shown subtle improvement since the claim by Mertkan Kantarmaci. She got bumped at the start and was wide against a rail bias two back, and last time she set a fast pace for the distance. She should appreciate getting back to 7F, having won a similar race at this level almost exactly a year ago.

RACE 4: QUINTARELLI (#8)

This feels like a race that could produce a wacky result, so I’m viewing the favorites with skepticism. I suppose Sixteen Tons will take some money as he returns to the NYRA circuit for Linda Rice, attracting Jose Ortiz. He did win his last couple of starts at Finger Lakes by open lengths, but he was beating woefully weak competition in those races. He’s also not making the lead in here with speeds like Deputy Flag and Papa Smooth signed on. The former should be in front early, but he’s awfully had to trust. He tends to get very leg weary late in his races, and was beaten by an inferior rival at Finger Lakes last time. Of the logical runners, Papa Smooth might make the most sense. He’s fairly reliable and he’s run well in both starts since getting claimed by Orlando Noda this summer. He just may have to rate here with Deputy Flag drawn inside of him. I want a horse that can come from off the pace, and the logical option is Merchants of Cool. However, he’s awfully hard to trust as he plunges in class down to this $14k level. He was once a pretty talented runner for Wesley Ward, but he’s clearly gone the wrong way for his current connections. I’m instead getting a little more creative with Quintarelli. This horse isn’t a winning type, going just 2 for 55 in his career, but this is the kind of race where a horse like him can be successful. He’s faced significantly better company in most of his starts for this trainer, and actually ran reasonably well two and three back at Belmont. His last race looks poor at first glance, but that pace fell apart and he was also racing over a wet track that he clearly despises. Now the blinkers come off, so I’m expecting him to come from off the pace this time.

RACE 7: BUSTIN SHOUT (#1)

I suppose Risk Profile and American Monarch will vie for favoritism after finishing second and third, respectively, behind the talented Happy Medium last time. However, they clearly weren’t in the same league as that rival and I didn’t think either one did anything particularly noteworthy in defeat. Risk Profile has a stronger overall resume, having run well in all three starts since getting claimed by Linda Rice earlier this year. However, he hasn’t run that fast in his last couple of starts and I think he’s vulnerable at a short price. American Monarch can certainly improve off his return last time, but the Bill Mott barn has been in a slump for the past month at Aqueduct. I’m not against Repo Rocks, who finished just behind Risk Profile when they met at Belmont on Sep. 18. I thought Repo Rocks ran a comparable race to the winner that day, as he attended an honest pace and battled on gamely despite racing wide off a gold rail. He since ran deceptively well on turf two back and then crushed a starter allowance field last time. If he maintains his current form he’s certainly a win candidate. My top pick is Bustin Shout. I want to see this horse get sent directly to the front from his inside post position. There is not an abundance of early speed in this race, and I believe Bustin Shout is fast enough to secure the lead from Siena Magic, who breaks just to his outside with Eric Cancel. Bruce Levine has been quoted as saying that he used that turf race as a prep last time, but this horse nevertheless ran well that day against a pretty salty field for the level. While his best speed figures have been earned on turf, he ran deceptively well in a few dirt starts here last winter, particularly when he got involved in fast paces on Dec. 11 and Jan. 21. I think he fits well here and could get somewhat overlooked in this competitive field.

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